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You have an opinion, but do you have what it takes to be heard?

Lauren Hogan
Washington, DC

Lauren Hogan

My resume suggests that I'm black. I’m not. But I’m not afraid to talk about race, either.

Literacy and learning on the Metro

Editor's note: The contestants could write on a topic of their choice for this final blog post. You can read Lauren Hogan's Thursday morning blog post here.

People say a lot of strange things to each other in public.  But what worries me more is the conversations that don't happen, especially those between parents and their babies.  In one of the most renowned early childhood studies, children whose parents were on welfare heard, on average, 616 words per hour, while children whose parents were professionals heard 2,153 words per hour.  This translates to a 30 million word gap by age 3, and since vocabulary is an essential part of comprehension and learning how to read, this difference is putting poor kids way behind, before they even enter school. 

Happily, more and more people are recognizing the importance of early childhood education, and a recently released set of guidelines supporting increased quality in Head Start and Early Head Start is another step in the right direction. However, despite the increased focus on early education, it still trails the billions of dollars we spend to close the achievement gap in elementary, middle and high school. 

There is, however, a cost-effective way to start closing the achievement gap early: parents and caregivers talking more to our kids.  It sounds easy, but how many of us grew up in homes where children should be seen and not heard?  Or where "talking" is easily seen as "talking back?"  We all need to engage in conversations, measure while cooking, ask and answer lots of questions, use new words, read books every day, count the stairs as we walk, and tell stories about our day.  If we don't do it, then we may catch our kids up, but they'll always start behind.

I was on the Metro the other day while a little girl, about three years old, talked through eight straight stops.  Her mother was exhausted, and holding another baby, but she calmly pointed out her daughter's reflection in the train window and answered her questions about where they were going.  Before long, the person in the seat ahead of and behind her were all talking with the girl and cooing with the baby. This was a community, embracing literacy and learning, right there on the Metro, saying the strangest things.  

Read more entries from this round. See what the judges think. And cast your vote on Friday.  

By Lauren Hogan  |  October 21, 2010; 5:22 PM ET  | Category:  Blogging Challenge
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Comments

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Oh come now, there is a mountain of research that indicates that early educational programs are incredibly beneficial to children.

It actually is ok to get off your anti-government horse every once in a while.

Posted by: megman | October 24, 2010 9:37 AM
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It is a tragic point to note that we have to rely on Head Start or "Early" Head Start in order to communicate to kids. Why is Government the ONLY solution? How about just love your kids" and give them the time and the love that they need. No Head Start - just love. Seems like this is a better answer, eh?

Posted by: jgdonahue | October 22, 2010 2:00 PM
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Good Stuff. I have to read more.

Posted by: Airborne82 | October 22, 2010 1:49 PM
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A worthwhile read, but if you want to remain relevant in 2010, Lauren, don't fall into the trap of assuming that every problem can be solved by throwing more government money at it.

You damage your credibility with your complaint about Head Start funding and your assertion about the "billions of dollars we spend to close the achievement gap" -- because it begs the question of "Sure we spend billions of dollars, but who says we're closing the achievement gap?"

Much more interesting is your DIY suggestion about what parents can do to close the achievement gap. That's the kind of century we're living in, Lauren: less government money available, more self-reliance required.

Posted by: UponFurtherReview | October 22, 2010 10:59 AM
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Good stuff! The numbers of words really add up, a new insight into early child education for me.

On the other hand, pushing 1,2,3 year olds out of childhood into academic learning, even with proper methods, may make them educated but less human. Smart, but not wise. Talkers, but not thinkers or at least reflective. Kindergarten meant Child’s Garden in German. Filling the Child’s Garden with learned students probably loses more than it gains.

Besides losing the time and ability to play, it puts everyone on a college track. If everyone graduated from college, who will collect the garbage?

Also, people need to be better, not smarter, if we are to fix the world.

Posted by: chucky-el | October 22, 2010 10:39 AM
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Great blog. So glad someone is talking about parenting and the small ways we can help parents make a difference.

Posted by: DrRe82 | October 22, 2010 10:14 AM
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That's a lovely story about the subway. It illustrates how much fun it is for a community to engage. It's nice to hear about positive things that are happening (for a change). And you make an excellent point - talking with children is a great way to enhance learning, and it doesn't cost anything. Your blog makes me think about how many opportunities I have to talk with children - for example, in the supermarket. I know parents get concerned when strangers start talking with their children, but even a few words helps.

Posted by: js423 | October 22, 2010 8:35 AM
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I haven't read all of your posts, but most of what I have read has been excellent. Hope you make it to the next round.

Posted by: martymar123 | October 22, 2010 7:02 AM
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Once again I play Dittohead to JackRyan.

Posted by: MsJS | October 21, 2010 6:45 PM
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THIS is a good blog post. Slice of life, with a moral.

Best of luck in the next round.

Posted by: JackRyan82 | October 21, 2010 5:46 PM
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